Lions are one of the most majestic and powerful species of animal found in Africa, so it should come as no surprise to discover just how diverse their diet can be.
As carnivores, lions will eat a range of other animals that they can hunt down and kill for nourishment.
The savannah and other biomes where lions live are full of lots of different species of animals that can act as a potential food source for lions, but what about African wild dogs? Are they on the menu for lions?
Here we are going to be taking a closer look at the diet of lions to see what other animals are on their dinner menus and which ones are not.
So, if you want to find out more about lions and their diet, this is the place for you!
What Do Lions Eat?
Lions are carnivorous mammals that live in habitats across Africa who are capable of eating a quarter of their body weight in a single sitting.
This means that lions like to hunt and eat large prey that can sustain them for days until their next successful hunt.
Plus, lions also live in large social groups known as prides so a single kill must help feed many mouths at once.
Luckily, there is plenty of potential prey available out in the savannah but some of the most popular species that lions tend to eat are ungulates. Ungulates are large, hoofed mammals that are typically herbivores.
They are easy targets for lions to hunt down and kill, plus they can provide a lot of meat to sustain many lions at once.
Because of this, animals like antelopes, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes and gazelles often end up as prey for lions and other predators on the savannah.
But lions are not limited to eating just these animals. If they come across fresh meat, even if they were not responsible for killing it, they will still tuck in. This includes fish, lizards, hares, mice and birds.
They will also hunt smaller creatures like wild warthogs and pigs even though they don’t provide nearly as much nutrition as larger prey.
Sometimes, lions will even take the chance to kill more dangerous prey such as giraffes and young elephants. Giraffes can provide a powerful kick that can send a lion flying, so many lions will avoid hunting giraffes unless they see an opportunity.
The same goes for elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses – these creatures are powerful and strong, so they can easily injure or kill a lion.
So, a lion will only take one down if they sense it is seriously weak or injured, or if they come across a baby that has been separated from its parents.
But all of these animals have one thing in common – they are prey, not predators. Herbivores, not carnivores. What about other carnivorous predators you can find on the savannah, like cheetahs or wild dogs?
Do Lions Eat Wild Dogs?
Lions have been recorded eating dead prey that they have found so long as it is fresh. However, for some reason, they won’t consume the flesh of other predators – including wild dogs.
Wild dogs are a native canine species in Africa and their territories can sometimes border with lions and spotted hyenas.
This makes them the natural enemy of these species and a natural competitor for food resources.
Because of this, lions will attack and kill any packs of wild dogs they come across, chasing them from their territory.
Lions are also not above killing pups so they are a major reason why mortality rates of African wild dog pups and adults alike.
However, even though lions will kill wild dogs, they will not consume them. Instead, lions will leave their kill behind.
This is because the reason why lions kill wild dogs is not to eat them. Wild dogs are not the prey of lions, but instead competitors. So, lions kill them out of a competitive nature rather than a predatory one.
Once killed, a wild dog is more likely to be eaten by a scavenger species or kleptoparasites like spotted hyenas, crocodiles, eagles or vultures – but not by lions.
Do Lions Eat Wild Dogs In Captivity?
When kept in captivity, lions are fed a diet by zookeepers that closely mimics the one they have when out in the wild.
Although zookeepers can hardly source meat like zebra and wildebeest due to hunting and shipping restrictions (including cost), they will try to mimic these meals as best as possible using local sheep, cattle, pigs, rabbits and more.
This means that for a captive lion’s diet, there will definitely be no wild dog on the menu.
Because lions do not eat wild dogs in the wild, even if they are responsible for killing them, so this means that zookeepers will not include wild dogs on their captive lions’ menus.
They only feed their captive lions similar foods to what they eat in the wild and wild dogs are not one of them. Therefore, captive lions are not fed wild dogs.
So, lions are responsible for killing a large number of African wild dogs out in the wild but despite this, they do not consume them.
This is because wild dogs and lions are both carnivorous predators that are natural competitors. Lions will attack and dominate packs of wild dogs, killing them because they don’t want to fight for food.
When lions kill wild dogs, it’s to ensure that they have more prey like zebras and antelope available for them to hunt.
They are not hunting and killing the wild dogs as prey, only attacking to limit the numbers of their competitors and further their own chances of survival.
However, lions will not eat any wild dogs they have killed because they don’t see them as prey.
While wild dogs will be eaten by other predators like spotted hyenas or vultures, they will not end up in a lion’s stomach at any point.